Fri, Jun 30, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Vietnamese blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’ goes on trial for anti-state propaganda

AFP, HANOI

A prominent Vietnamese blogger known as “Mother Mushroom” yesterday went on trial for anti-state propaganda, a court clerk said, as rights groups decried the charges as “outrageous” and demanded her immediate release.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, whose pen name derives from her daughter’s nickname “mushroom,” was arrested in October last year for critical Facebook posts about politics and the environment.

Vietnam’s one-party state keeps a tight clamp on dissent and routinely jails activists, bloggers and lawyers who speak out against the communist regime.

A court clerk, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, confirmed Quynh’s trial started yesterday morning.

Quynh’s mother, who was allowed to briefly see her daughter on Wednesday for the first time since she was detained, said she has little hope for a not-guilty verdict.

“My daughter has done nothing wrong, but they have been so brutal and repressive,” Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan said.

Reporters were banned from attending the trial in Khanh Hoa Province and photographs on Facebook showed the courthouse heavily guarded by police.

Quynh was a vocal critic of Vietnam’s human rights record, civilian deaths in police custody and the government’s handling of a toxic leak that killed tonnes of fish last year.

She was arrested in the city of Nha Trang on Oct. 10 last year as she was visiting a fellow activist in prison.

She was charged under Article 88 of Vietnam’s criminal code and held incommunicado with no access to lawyers until June 20, her attorney Nguyen Kha Thanh said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch urged authorities to release the 37-year-old blogger this week, calling the trial “outrageous.”

“The scandal here is not what Mother Mushroom said, but Hanoi’s stubborn refusal to repeal draconian, rights-abusing laws that punish peaceful dissent and tarnish Vietnam’s international reputation,” Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement on Wednesday.

The US, Britain and the EU have all called for Quynh’s release.

She in March received an International Woman of Courage Award from the US Department of State, which Vietnam said was “not appropriate and of no benefit for the development of relations between the two countries.”

In 2015, Quynh was named Civil Rights Defender of the Year by a Sweden-based international advocacy group.

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